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Shad Spawn and the SlingBladeZ

Like a lot of guys, I kind of got away from spinnerbait fishing in recent years. There were plenty of new lures out there, and the tour took us to lakes that weren't really conducive to that style of fishing. But that's changed recently, and I've made a lot more money throwing a spinnerbait again.

Certain times of year really line up to be spinnerbait season. The spring shad spawn is probably number one, as we'll discuss, but the fall can be really good too, especially on lakes with a big baitfish migration. Smallmouths will blast a spinnerbait anytime; I confirmed that when we visited Waddington, New York a couple of years ago for a summer slugfest.

For years, I'd always wanted to design the perfect spinnerbait, and teaming up with Z-Man, I was able to do so. The result is the SlingBladeZ, and it's easily the most technologically-advanced spinnerbait on the market.

Z-Man's slogan is The Science and Art of Fishing, and this spinnerbait really goes along with that. Every aspect of the SlingBladeZ is just a little different, and a just a little better.

The head is designed for perfect water flow as much as anything; it's a weight-forward design that we worked on with a 3-D model for about two years. It looks great, but the big thing is that it won't allow the bait to roll, no matter what. The head is also built around a unique frame made of 17-7 stainless wire. It offers more spring than other wires - providing more vibration - but remains incredibly strong to resist breaking, even if it's bent. Of course the blades play a big part of that vibration, too. The SlingBladeZ features custom blades; they're actually flatter blades that push more water.

But enough about my pet spinnerbait. We're here to talk fishing and there's no better time to sling a blade than during the spring shad spawn. No matter where the tour takes us in the spring, I'm looking for a shad spawn first thing in the morning. Sometimes it's before the bass spawning season, sometimes during; in any case, I'm going to look for places that shad should be grouped. You see, if I hit the shad spawn, I can make hay first thing in the morning. It makes the rest of the day look like a waste of time - it's just that good.

The best place to look is hard targets. Floating boat docks are a no-brainer, but shad will spawn around rip rap and seawalls, even logs if that's all they have to choose from. It's easy to know if you're around the shad spawn, as the shad themselves will follow your bait in, almost like they're trying to spawn with it. A spinnerbait is, by far, the best lure choice during the shad spawn. In most cases, I'll tie on a 1/2 ounce SlingBladeZ and just start flying down the bank, casting at everything that might attract shad. Again, you'll see them when you're by them, or you'll see bass blasting them.

Double willow blades are the way to go, but skirt choice can vary. I always like to start with a pretty bold skirt first thing in the morning, when the light is low, like Pearl Ghost. Later, when the sun comes out a bit, or if the water's real clear, I'll tone it down, and throw Clearwater Shad.

One thing about the SlingBladeZ skirt that's just as important as color is the way it's built. Just like the other traits we mentioned, a lot of trial and error went in to that skirt. First off, it's tied on the bait with copper wire, so it never slides around. But, more importantly, the skirt on a SlingBladeZ only comes out of the top - the whole underside has been trimmed off. This allows the skirt to really pulse and flow, and it removes the chance of the "underskirt" getting bunched up, and causing the bait to track crooked. What's left on top can then be twice as thick and fluffy; again, producing more action.

Anyway, just keep on trucking when looking for that shad spawn - lots of casts. Sometimes, I'll thread a RaZor ShadZ or a StreakZ on the back to keep the bait up, and I like to stutter and twitch the retrieve a bit to trigger strikes. Casting accuracy can be key. I stick with a bit shorter, 6'9" Loomis, and spool 20-pound Yo-Zuri fluoro.

Believe me, if you like spinnerbait fishing, you'll love the SlingBladeZ - we've thought of everything. Tie one on this spring, and search out the shad bite.

You'll be making hay before the sun shines.

Luke Clausen

Z-Man Fishing Pro Staff

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